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If you run a business that provides instruction in Texas or to Texans, even those offering only distance education, you need a license. You may qualify for an exemption, for example, if your school grants specific degrees of if you are an out-of-state distance education school.

A Certificate of Approval is the license required to run a career school.

When a License is Required

If you run a business that provides instruction in Texas or to Texans, even those offering only distance education, you need a license. You may qualify for an exemption, for example, if your school grants specific degrees of if you are an out-of-state distance education school.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) gives a Certificate of Approval to licensed schools. If your school has a license, you can let people know that TWC has approved it and regulates it. If you are running your school without a license or exemption, you might have to pay a penalty, give refunds to all students or stop providing instruction.

License Application Process

To get a license for a career school or college, send TWC a complete application with the required documents and fees.

We aim to issue a Certificate of Approval within 90 days. The review time depends on how complete the application is, how quickly you respond to requests for information and revisions and the outcome of the site visit. If the application process isn't finished, TWC will withdraw the application.

The application fees depend on the size of your school and the number of staff applications you submit.

Do I Need to Contact Other Agencies?

If you plan to offer any degree program or programs for specific vocations, you must work with both TWC and another agency. For details, see Licensing Coordination Information for Career School Programs.

If you plan to offer degree programs, contact the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Get Started with Your Application

Instructions and a list of forms and samples for a new school application are on the Checklist to Apply for a Certificate of Approval.

Small School or Other than a Small School?

You will apply as either a "small school" or "other than a small school," sometimes called a "large school."

Your school is considered other than a small school for licensing purposes if it meets one of these conditions:

  • Will receive prepayment of tuition, fees or other charges from any federal or state funds, including Title IV participation
  • Has an annual gross income from student tuition and fees greater than $100,000
Financial Stability

Contact a Certified Public Accountant with a firm license to begin the required financial submission. Requirements differ depending on the type of ownership of your school. For more information, see CSC-016, Evidence Necessary to Establish Financial Stability, New School.

Facilities & Equipment

Your school's facilities and equipment must support your school's programs. You do not need facilities and equipment when you apply for licensure. But TWC must visit and survey your school before your school can be licensed. Depending on your programs, there may be other requirements.

Create Essential Documents & Policies

You must submit your catalog and enrollment agreement with your application. The catalog explains the required policies. The required policies on cancelations, refunds, attendance and satisfactory academic progress depend on the program. They also depend on how you are offering the program. The catalog and the enrollment agreement become the contract between the school and the student.

Staffing Your School

Your school must have a school director, at least one representative and at least one instructor. TWC must approve all. One person can fill more than one of the required roles.

School Director

Your school director is in charge of the daily operations of the school and must meet certain qualifications.


Representatives solicit and enroll students for the school. Some individuals, due to their direct nature of ownership, do not have to register as a representative.

School representatives must be registered and approved by TWC before they solicit students. They must also take and pass TWC’s free online training, Representative Training for Career Schools and Colleges.


There must be at least one instructor for each subject taught. An instructor may teach more than one subject. Instructors must meet specific requirements and cannot be students in the same or similar program they teach. There are some exceptions, depending on the circumstances. 

Appointed Designated Liaison 

The school director appoints a designated liaison. The liaison serves as the director when the director is not there for a TWC survey visit. The liaison does not have signatory rights. The director must make sure this person is trained in survey visit procedures.

Programs and Planning Externships

Your offerings may be vocation programs or seminar programs. Vocational programs are a “sequence of organized instruction or study that may lead to ... a degree, certificate or other recognized educational credential.” A seminar program "enhances a student's career. It doesn't teach the skills and fundamental knowledge required for a specific occupation. A seminar may include a workshop, an introduction to an occupation or group of occupations and language training, among others . 

A school program might include an externship. It is the school’s responsibility to arrange adequate externship sites and supervision for all students enrolled in the program. Our sample application includes an example of a letter to a potential externship site and a sample extern evaluation form.

Know the Law & Rules

In Texas, career schools and colleges are governed by the Career Schools and Colleges Law - Texas Education Code, Chapter 132 and Career Schools and Colleges Rules - Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 807.

These help TWC review your school materials and lets you know what the state expects from your school. Knowing these laws and rules is helpful for your school and your students. 

School Advertisements

Before your school is approved, you cannot advertise it. The law and rules give detailed instructions about career school advertisements, like:

  • Advertisements must be honest and not misleading.
  • You can print ads only in specific parts of newspapers and magazines.
  • There are some words you can't use in ads, like "Wanted," "Help Wanted," or "Trainee."
  • Other words need TWC's approval before using them, like "guaranteed" or "free."
  • You can't promise jobs to students.
  • Pictures and graphics can't give false ideas about your school's facilities.
  • There are rules about the font size and language you can use for financial aid promotions.

Make sure you read and understand the advertising rules.

TWC treats what your school representatives say as if they were advertisements. Your representatives have rules to follow, especially when talking about financial aid. Your school is responsible for what your representatives say.


TWC can grant a license to a career school in Texas without needing accreditation. Some career schools choose to go through a process called accreditation. Accreditation is where an outside group checks their school and programs based on specific standards.

If a school wants to provide federal grants and loans to its students, it must be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation evaluates and recognizes accrediting agencies.

If a career school plans to offer degree programs in Texas, it must get authorization from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Some careers schools and colleges may have the institution or specific programs exempt from regulation.

Exemption Criteria

In Texas, most types of postsecondary training must be regulated, and the person offering the training needs a license. However, some schools can be exempt from this regulation, which means they don't need the license.

To qualify for an exemption, the school must:

  • Submit a formal request to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) for a specific exemption
  • Provide all the necessary evidence to prove that they meet the requirements for the exemption
  • Receive an official response from TWC stating that the exemption has been granted

For more information about the exemption criteria and the documentation required for an exemption request, see General Exemptions from Career School Licensing.

Exemption Request

If you think your school or a certain course meets the criteria for one of the exemptions, submit your exemption request and required documentation by mail to TWC:

Texas Workforce Commission 

Career Schools and Colleges

Attn: Unregistered Schools and Exemptions

101 E 15th St, Rm 226-T

Austin, TX 78778-0001

We will review your exemption request and let you know within about 45-60 days whether the exemption is granted or denied, or more information is needed. If we deny the exemption, it may be appealed.

Out-of-state degree-granting institutions do not need to seek a license or exemption, under some circumstances, if certain conditions are met.

When a License or Exemption is Not Required

If your school is located outside of Texas and meets these criteria, you don't need to apply for a license or exemption from TWC. But before enrolling Texas students, you must meet other TWC requirements:

  • Your school is physically located in another state.
  • Your school is legally authorized by that state to provide postsecondary education and grant degrees.
  • Your school is accredited by a recognized regional or national accrediting organization.
  • Your school offers only distance or correspondence programs of instruction in Texas. TWC doesn't view externships or clinical learning experiences as a physical presence.

But if your school doesn't meet all these qualifications, you must get a license or exemption to operate legally in Texas.

For more information on offering degree programs in Texas, contact Cathie Maeyaert at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board at 512-427-6527 or

Depending on the online courses you offer, the Texas Board of Nursing or other State of Texas agencies may need to approve some of your courses.

There might be other Texas laws or programs that require your school to register with the Texas Secretary of State.

TWC Requirements You Must Meet

If your school meets the criteria listed above, the only actions you must take are to:

  • Post on the home page of your website a conspicuous notice that includes the following information:
    • A statement that your school is not regulated in Texas under Chapter 132 of the Texas Education Code
    • The names of the regulatory agencies that approve and regulate your school in the state where it is physically located
    • An explanation of the processes for filing complaints and contacting those regulatory agencies
  • Email to:
    • Notify us that you meet the criteria that exclude you from TWC licensing or exemption.
    • Provide a link to the required notice on your website and the appropriate breadcrumb trail.

Other Agency Requirements

Depending on the types of courses you intend to offer online to Texans, other State of Texas agencies may be required to approve some of your courses. For more information, see Licensing Coordination Information for Career School Programs.

Forms and Publications

Applying for a License

Catalog and Enrollment Agreement Reference Materials

Cancellations & Refunds – Sample Policies




Unlicensed Schools